Antrim can ease their relegation fears against struggling Laois
Allainz National Football League Division Three: Antrim v Laois (tomorrow, Corrigan Park, 2pm)
AFTER their dismal showing in the Dr McKenna Cup, few people gave Antrim a chance of surviving in Division Three.
They lost to St Mary’s, Monaghan and Fermanagh. The latter two performances were particularly bad.
But those results shouldn’t have come as a major surprise for even the casual observer of Antrim football.
Joint manager Frank Fitzsimons and Gearoid Adams flooded their senior squad with rookies.
Given their lack of senior experience, they looked favourites to make a prompt return to Division Four.
But things aren’t as bad as they may seem.
The League table doesn’t look that favourable for them in their fight to extend their stay in Division Three.
But sift through their performances and the only poor performance came in Tullamore against Offaly.
They should have taken something from their opener against Tipp in Thurles too – but they got their just rewards and chiselled out a great win at home to Sligo.
And there were plenty of positives to take from their narrow defeat to Louth in Drogheda 13 days ago.
Of course, it’s true two points from four games is relegation form – but Fitzsimons and Adams have seen enough to suggest they can avoid the drop.
The complexion of Division Three is also favourable. Longford, Laois and Offaly are stuck on two points apiece.
That’s why there is so much riding on tomorrow’s outcome at Corrigan Park.
A win for Antrim could act as a springboard to safety. The same holds for Laois.
But, like several managers before him, Peter Creedon is struggling to get a tune out of Laois.
Justin McNulty couldn’t manage it. Mick Lillis found it tougher again and stepped away from the O’Moore County.
Creedon raised all boats during his time with the Tipperary footballers and seemed a good fit for Laois.
But their surprise win over Armagh in mid-February is all they have to show for their efforts.
After losing by two points to Sligo last time out, Creedon began sounding the alarm bells in Laois.
“Division Four could be beckoning if we don’t get our act together,” he said.
The age-old problem in Laois is their transition from defence to attack.
“We’re conscious as a management team that the one area we need to work on is the transition from defence to attack,” added Creedon.
“We’re not penetrating enough up front.”
That will be music to Antrim’s ears as they appear to be striking the right balance between defence and attack, particularly in their morale-boosting win against Sligo three weeks ago.
A striking feature of that one-point victory over the Yeats men was the penetrating runs of Paddy McBride from wing-back.
Already the St John’s man has struck up an excellent understanding with crafty forward CJ McGourty.
Defensively, Antrim were well drilled that day.
They have the free-takers to make a difference while Sigerson Cup winner Matthew Fitzpatrick always offers a goal threat.
The Antrim supporters also played a key role in getting over Sligo.
They will again need to be in fine voice against against Laois tomorrow, particularly with the vastly experienced Donie Kingston and Ross Munnelly hoping to get enough scores on the board to ease their own relegation fears.
But Antrim have the legs and defensive diligence to keep them at bay tomorrow.
Laois (NFL v Antrim): G Brody; D Strong, D Booth, A Farrell, S Attride, K Lillis, P McMahon; J Finn, J O’Loughlin; N Donoher, D Conway, E Lowry; R Munnelly, D Kingston, P Kingston